[Review] Shadow Warriors a.k.a. Ninja Gaiden (NES)

REVIEW # 00000000  01001001

Ninja Gaiden is one of the masterpieces of the beat ’em up genre but it’s also a great platformer knwn for its difficulty in some of the later stages. Originally developed for NES and Arcade simultaneously, it was released in Japan in 1988 for the console and the year after for the Aracde, was later ported by Tecmo for the European market where it landed in 1991 with the name Shadow Warriors. Hudson Soft realized the port for the PC Engine version, known for its sharp and clean visuals.

That’s mine 🙂

Years after it was ported also on Game Boy (1991), on Wii (2007) and Wii U (2014).

Between 1989 and 1990 Shadow Warriors also ported (in a modified version) on the main home computer of the time: Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. Among the portable version, beside the Game Boy version was developed also a Lynx version. The games was also ported on MS-DOS computers.

My heart says…

Ninja Gaiden or, in its european version Shadow Warriors, is one of the game I wanted the most when I started to collect games for the NES. I finally managed to buy it at a reasonable price not so long ago and I immediately started to play it. I’ve never been into nonjas ort stuff like that but I have to admit that playing Ninja Gaiden it’s really a pleasure because in the very end this is a platformer and platformers are the kind of games I love the most.

Splash screen

This is the wonderful opening sequence in Shadow Warriors, that explains (more or less) why our Ninja Ryu flies to America for his personal vendetta.


The graphics of Shadow Warriors are pretty much identilcal to the ones od Castlevania, even though this game suffers a bit more flickering when two or more sprites collide. The general tone is less saturated and the colors are a bit more faded and sometimes tend too much to blue/violet. So if it were only for the in-game graphics probably the game would have stop to 7/10. However the introduction of marvellous anime-style cutscenes surely contributes to raise the totale grande, even because they’re not for its own sake, but give also more depth. Every scene you’ll understand more about the ninja’s story and the reason why he’s running crazy defeating 621234 enemies at the time.


Ryu Hyabusa is a ninja and goes to America to avenge his father. At the beginnign, the reason is unknown but throughout all the game we see a lot of cutscenes that help us understand it.  We understand later that he gets involved in an adventure to save the world because the evil Jaquio wants to take over the world with the hel of two powerful statues known as Light and Shadow.

The plot is very elaborated and it’s generally considered one of the best features of the game, while usually the scrolling beat ’em up rely less on the plot and more on the fight.


Shadow Warriors is an unforgiving an unfair game. But still people keep playing it so this means that the gameplay is someway good.

After the first levels in which you’ll learn a bit how and when to jump or attack and you start to manage the secrets of pixel perfect jumping and the different bonus attack you can collect the things start to become incredibly hard. Rockhard! Out of the blue you’re fighting against 10 enemies together, each one with its peculiar attach and each one chasing you from every f**king direction. There’s also a stage in which you’ll have also to fight against the wind! In the swear-o-meter Shadow Warriors stands easily in the top tier.

The actual gameplay is very similar to the one of Castlevania and even the levels, at least in the graphics and in the pseudo-HUD are very very similar (it’s not a secret that Castelvania too is on the top in the swear-o-meter). Your main weapon is a sword and you can collect different kind of attacks hitting the lantern/birds/other stuff during the stages (other thing that looks like the candlesticks to whip in Castlevania)


While most of the times during harder levels you think that the game is fooling you and that you can’t properly control the Ninja, no matter how hard you try, the controls are good and very responsive. Since the easiest comparison is with Castlevania, one thing I don’t like in Shadow Warriors is that you cannot choose the secondary weapon: once you have it you have to use it until the end. Ok, the way in Castelvania you select the secondary weapon is horrible but they could have though to add this feature here.


The music of Ninja Gaiden is addictive. Probably this depends also by the fact that you have to play the levels thousand of times before completing them, but anyway is a great soundtrack


Since the game becomes harder and harder level after level, at the point that you’ll be thrown in a real inferno, the longevity is very high. Probably I suck a lot but I’m still trying to figure out how to kill the boss at the end of “world” three, the f**king dude that keeps jumping arund and throwing sort of bullets in a pattern you can’t avoid. And this is nothing. I’ve seen (and you’ll have as well) the following levels and they can be a real nightmare if you’re not skilled enough

Final Score 82/100

Year: 1988 (Ninja Gaiden – US version), 1991 (Shadow Warriors – EU version)

Developer: Tecmo

Publisher: Tecmo

Genre: Platform, Scrolling Beat ’em up

Game Mode: Single Player

Original Platform: NES

From the same developer/publisher:

  • Rygar (1986)
  • Solomon’s Key (1987)
  • Gemini Wing (1987)
  • Captain Tsubasa (1988) and sequels
  • Tecmo World Cup ’90 (1990)
  • Dead or Alive ++ (1998)
  • Project Zero (2001) and sequels

Inspired to:

If you liked it you can also try:

  • The Legend of Kage (1985)
  • Ninja (1986)
  • Shinobi (1987) and sequels
  • Wrath of the Black Manta (1989)
  • Shadow Knights (1990)
  • Shadow of the Ninja (1990)

Other chapters of the saga:

  • Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Shadow of Chaos
  • Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
  • Ninja Gaiden (2004)
  • Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (2008)
  • Ninja Gaiden II (2008)
  • Ninja Gaiden 3 (2012)

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